Is the pure joy and delight of learning without judgment forever gone?

 Inmo—a dear colleague, mentor, and educational leader—responds to the potential perils of SBG and assessment. With voice so elequent, it deserves its own post.

As you know I am one who not only thinks outside the box but also one who lives outside the box and has spent most of my life looking for the box that others talk about. Having said that I want to provide another lens for you to view your thinking on SBG.

“Creating wonder in the rabbit hole named school” as the subtheme to your blog title theme is something to “wonder and to ponder.” It would be of great joy for me to read your blog about the wonder of student learning in a non assessed driven educational community and to see the joy of learning that comes from an approach to teaching without both educators and students being assessed on what they did or did not learn or how well the teacher taught or did not teach. Is the pure joy and delight of learning without judgment forever gone?

I understand how schools are expecting educators to use SBG but since I went to a school through 6th grade where we did not get grades on projects or for the classes, it is always hard for me to “grade” a student. I went to school to learn, to have fun, and to see my friends. Once grades entered the picture learning took a divergent path.

I can honestly assess students and I can honesty assess student work and I can give honest feedback to parents. For me to give a grade to a student is something that is still hard for me to do as an educator. I have taught both at the college level and in private schools where grades were not given but assessments and feedback were. Such assessments and feedback take a lot of time and great reflection on student work to write and I assess students as individuals and not as a collective. Plus such assessments use way less math and fewer students fighting for “points” they think they should have received.

You and I have done research together on student perception of teachers. It would be “curiouser” to explore how students view assessment, esp. SBG. Although, I think most students would be somewhat biased in favor of grades since most students have never gone to school without getting grades or being graded.

Wouldn’t it be great if students knew the standards they were being “graded?” I believe that students should know the standards or goals of why they are being “taught’” what they are being “taught” and in the same view they should also be allowed to provide feedback or suggestions on how they get assessed.

I know many educators may not support these concepts – but such concepts and strategies have been practiced for decades and are still practiced in some schools today. So as curiouser is to curiouser I suggest you create a small advisory board of your students for some basic feedback on your thoughts posed on this blog posting.

When you write, “ I’ve created standards based student goal setting sheets (they can be found here), and I know how to score using the 4 point rubric. The hurdle is “How do I report grades based on Marzano’s 4 point scale and not freak out the students and parents?”

Why not change the “I” to “my students and I” and get some of their feedback?

I have my 50th high school class reunion in a couple of weeks – it will be fun to see how my friends, the other non graded students in my generation are doing today and wonder if we would have been more successful if we had received grades. Most of the 50 years since I graduated from high school I have been an educator. I have seen many changes in education during that time span come and go and the current focus on assessment assessment assessment is one I hope does not stay for long.

How do we balance assessment, grades, rankings, etc. with the joy of learning? Thoughts?


2 thoughts on “Is the pure joy and delight of learning without judgment forever gone?

  1. I too am looking for that box. I have been teaching inside the school system for close to ten years but previously have home-schooled my 4 children (only grades received were on the mandated state tests and they were off the chart). I have tutored many more students in the past before SBG due to the minimal standards honor students can easily obtain–I am still waiting for the learning! Thanks for your words because I thought I was the only one who wondered why I am still needed!

    1. I thought I was the only one who wondered why I am still needed!

      I had fallen into the hole and needed this response to pull me back out. For me, when I design my lessons, I need to not only focus on student learning, but create lessons where students WANT to come to school and WANT to learn, rather than being MANDATED to come to school and FORCED to learn. How do we juggle that along with assessment and accountability?

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